There are over 250 million smartwatch users worldwide as of 2022, and this is only expected to grow as these devices forge their way towards a multi-billion dollar industry.
Smartwatches began life as a relatively novelty device designed to send notifications, media, etc, into a wrist-mounted device. Now, they’ve grown into a must-have health device that displays everything from step counts to heart rates and heart rate variability (HRV).
With the growing concerns about electromagnetic fields (EMF) radiation, many people are becoming cautious about the health implications of using Apple Watch or other smartwatches.
After all, this is yet another electric device glued to our side. This article will explore the potential EMF radiation effects of the Apple Watch and how to mitigate them.
Table of Contents
What is EMF Radiation?
Firstly, what even is EMF radiation?
EMF radiation refers to the energy waves that are emitted by electronic devices like cell phones, laptops, and smartwatches. The EMF spectrum includes visible light, which we can see.
These waves can be classified into two categories: non-ionizing and ionising.
Non-ionizing radiation, which is emitted by most electronic devices, is considered relatively safe, but recent research casts doubt on how safe it really is.
On the other hand, ionising radiation, emitted by sources like X-rays, is harmful to health at certain doses. While a few X-rays won’t harm you, you certainly wouldn’t want to be exposed to X-rays for longer than you need. Further down the EMF spectrum, you find extremely damaging radiation like gamma rays.
The type of radiation emitted by electronic devices has a higher wavelength than visible light, and most sits in the microwaves and radiowaves part of the spectrum.
The EMF spectrum is complex and different waves have different properties.
EMF Radiation and Electronic Devices
Global health and technology agencies are aware of EMF exposure. A series of studies in the 70s found an array of health effects related to working around strong EMF fields. In the UK, HSE regulates work exposure to EMF for that reason, while other countries have their own regulations.
However, there is growing concern that EMF has health impacts with lower exposure, and the WHO classified it as a grade 2B Possible Carcinogen, primarily due to evidence suggesting a risk of developing glioma, a type of brain cancer:
“The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer1 , associated with wireless phone use” – WHO documentation.
While sceptics still criticise the evidence, it’s undoubtedly getting tougher to refute. WaveWall has published numerous overviews of the research surrounding EMF radiation, which you can find here and on our blog. Read this short summary of current research here.
How is EMF Measured?
Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) measures the amount of radiofrequency (RF) energy absorbed by the body when exposed to electromagnetic radiation.
SAR is expressed in watts per kilogram (W/kg) and is used to determine the potential health effects of exposure to RF radiation.
SAR is used to measure the energy absorption of the body’s tissues and is commonly used to evaluate the safety of wireless devices such as smartphones and smartwatches.
Measurement of SAR
The SAR of a device is measured using phantom body parts, typically a head and other synthetic tissues filled with a liquid that simulates the electrical properties of human tissues.
The electronic device is then placed next to the body parts, and the SAR is measured using a probe. The probe measures the amount of RF energy absorbed by the phantom and calculates the SAR.
Regulations for SAR
Different countries have different regulations for SAR levels. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) limits the SAR level of a wireless device to 1.6 W/kg over 1 gram of tissue.
The European Union (EU) set the SAR limit as a higher 2.0 W/kg over 10 grams of tissue.
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) similarly recommends a maximum exposure limit for non-ionizing radiation of 2 W/kg over 10 grams of tissue.
However, campaigners, including the co-signatories of the International EMF Scientist Appeal, signed by 247 scientists, say the limits are far too high.
Additionally, SAR is commonly tested at a range of 10mm – and some manufacturers, like Apple, recommend you use your device at this range. So, unless you hold your phone away from your skull, you’re probably exposing yourself to EMF beyond the legal limit anyway.
Apple Watch EMF
Apple Watch was first launched in April 2015, and since then, but has since undergone several upgrades to become one of the most popular smartwatches in the world.
The Apple Watch has many features, including advanced fitness tracking, messaging and notifications, music playback, and Siri integration.
Like any electronic device, Apple Watch emits EMF. It also uses wireless connectivity in the form of Bluetooth and WiFi, which means it emits more radiation in the microwave and radiofrequency portion of the spectrum.
EMF Radiation Levels of Apple Watch
The Apple Watch emits EMF radiation, just like any other electronic device. However, the levels of EMF radiation emitted by the watch are relatively low.
The ICNIRP recommends that the maximum exposure limit for non-ionizing radiation is 2 watts per kilogram (W/kg and the Apple Watch emits radiation at a rate of 0.17 W/kg, which is well below the safe limit.
Moreover, since the Apple Watch is not in contact with the head, the radiation is less exposed to the brain. Therefore, the max SAR for wrist devices is actually 4.0 W/kg in the US to reflect this.
Smartwatches like the Apple Watch are not the biggest culprits regarding radiation exposure. However, they’re still yet another electronic device we’re in contact with all day.
So, they’re still adding radiation exposure onto that experience through contact with other devices – namely smartphones.
Potential Health Effects of EMF Radiation
EMF radiation has a cumulative impact. As our exposure increases, so do the risks.
Since many of us use phones and other electronic devices very often, exposure is generally higher than it ever has been. Medical history teaches us that it can be very difficult for researchers to keep up with developments.
For example, sugar consumption, tobacco, certain drugs, radiation and UV exposure and many other things were once considered safe or even healthy!
Here are some of the health impacts of EMF exposure:
There are many legitimate concerns that prolonged exposure to EMF radiation can increase the risk of cancer.
Several studies have investigated the link between EMF radiation and cancer, but academia still lacks clarity on the topic. However, the WHO officially confirmed the risk of cancer – specifically glioma – by labelling EMF as a 2B possible carcinogen.
Many scientists are convinced, including the co-signatories of the International EMF Scientist Appeal, signed by 247 scientists.
In addition, while brain cancer is the primary concern, EMF exposure has been linked with other types of cancer, including breast cancer. Read more about this issue and how it’s covered by the mainstream media here.
Some people have reported experiencing headaches after prolonged exposure to EMF radiation. This was among the main concerns reported by early research into working around high-powered EMFs.
Headaches can be caused by many factors, including stress, fatigue, and dehydration, and it’s difficult to attribute them solely to EMF radiation. Nevertheless, anecdotal reports of headaches relating to EMF exposure are common.
3: Sleep Disturbances
EMF radiation may disrupt sleep patterns. The evidence to support this claim’s links to EMF is broadly inconclusive, but the effect of late-night smartphone usage on sleep is potentially disastrous due to other factors, like blue light exposure. Read more about that here.
Cellphones may be linked to infertility in both men and women.
Specifically, exposure has been linked to impaired sperm motility, mobility and lower sperm counts. In addition, we know that global fertility has dropped in the last 20 years or so, and radiation exposure is likely part of the explanation.
Protecting Yourself from EMF
If you want to lower your EMF exposure, there are many things you can do. But, first, it’s sensible to concentrate on exposure through your smartphone and other wireless devices, as you probably come into contact with these often.
1: Limiting Use
Let’s start with the obvious. Limiting the use of the Apple Watch or any other electronic device will reduce exposure to EMF radiation.
2: Using Airplane Mode:
Turning off unnecessary features such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can also reduce exposure to the radiation.
Using Airplane mode disables all wireless communication, including cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connections. This can significantly reduce exposure to EMF radiation, especially when the device is not in use.
3: Using EMF Radiation Shielding Products
EMF-blocking phone cases are extremely efficient. These products work by absorbing and redirecting the radiation away from the body, using technology like the Faraday Cage.
4: Don’t Use Your Device at Night
Many people wear smartwatches all night as they track sleep metrics. However, this means that you’re practically never getting a break from the radiation. Plus, your watch might end up near your head when you’re asleep.
Summary: Apple Watch EMF Radiation – Are They Safe
Broadly speaking, the Apple Watch emits relatively low levels of EMF radiation. Crucially, its position on the wrist is favourable compared to near the head or crotch.
However, the always-on nature of smartwatches warrants concern, especially when people sleep with the watch. This brings close-proximity EMF exposure close to 24 hours a day!
It’s certainly recommended to reduce radiation exposure, such as limiting use and not wearing the watch at night. Using EMF radiation shielding products are also a massive help in reducing exposure.WaveWall’s anti-radiation products are independently tested to protect you against EMF radiation. View our range of phone cases, headphones, laptop sleeves and other innovative anti-EMF products.